2022, THE FOOTBALLING YEAR IN REVIEW: Argentina’s World Cup Win a Beautiful Way to Wrap up a Fascinating Year in Men’s Football

2022 was a really incredible year for men’s football with many fairytale moments and in this article, I will be highlighting some of them. 

The year started with Senegal’s triumph in the AFCON, with Sadio Mane scoring the decisive penalty to give his country their first ever AFCON title. They have had really good squads in the past but have been unlucky in the competition, recently finishing as runners-up to Algeria in the 2019 AFCON. Mane’s heroics in the competition combined with a strong finish to the season with Liverpool, saw him come second in the Ballon d’Or rankings. 

Real Madrid had three completely impressive victories on their way to the final of the Champions League, seeing off favoured rivals PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City, with Karim Benzema churning out stellar performances almost every week as they went on to defeat Liverpool in what was a replay of the 2018 Champions League final. Benzema’s performances in the UCL and back home in La Liga saw him become only the second player outside of Ronaldo and Messi, since 2008, to win the Ballon d’Or. He also made unwanted history, becoming the first Ballon d’Or winner to miss the World Cup.

Karim Benzema became only the second player since 2008 outside of Ronaldo and Messi to win the Ballon d’Or.

Also during the France Football Awards ceremony, Mane became the inaugural winner of the Socrates award, a recognition of his humanitarian efforts. Barcelona’s Gavi won the Golden Boy award, the second Barcelona player in a row to do this after Pedri.

Senegal beat Egypt on penalties to win their first AFCON title

Towards the end of the 2021/2022 season, Liverpool where in the hunt for a quadruple but only ended up with the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup defeating Chelsea on penalties in both finals and losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League final a week after losing the Premier League to Manchester City on the final day of the season. 

Liverpool won the 2022 FA and Carabao cups, beating Chelsea in both finals
Manchester City came from 2 goals down to clinch the Premier League title on the final day

Thought to be broke by most, Barcelona activated various financial levers to sign a host of players, as they continue their rebuild under Xavi, a move which has them joint-top of the La Liga table right now. They were however unable to better last season’s performances in the Champions League, dropping to the Europa League, where they will face Manchester United in February. Barcelona were able to pry Raphinha and Kounde away from Chelsea’s grasp, showing that while they may be down, they still have pull. 

AC Milan had a strong finish to the 2021/2022 season to win their first Serie A title in 11 years, pipping title favourites Inter Milan to the title on the last day of the season. Over in England, Newcastle were taken over by the Saudi’s and started a remarkable turnaround to their season, going from 19th place to 11th in the space of 6 months. They are currently 3rd in the new Premier League season.

AC Milan celebrating their first title win in 11 years

Napoli signed Kvicha Kvaratskhelia in the off-season and he’s taken the world by storm, instantly becoming a starter and playing a key role in their current standing at the top of the Serie A table and in them finishing atop their Champions League group which contained last season’s finalists, Liverpool. 

Kvicha Kvaratskhelia in a Napoli shirt


The 2022 World Cup in Qatar was just concluded and just might be the best World Cup I’ve ever witnessed.  But before a ball was even kicked, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it. The controversy was mostly about the fate of migrant workers in Qatar and the country’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights. Some national teams planned to wear a “One Love” armband which no one eventually went ahead with for fear of the sanctions. 

Once the games started though, most of the talk died down. There were still some knotty moments though; with the Iran National team refusing to sing their National anthem during their first match in protest of the Women’s Rights situation back home and the German National team covering their mouths as a criticism of Qatar before their unexpected 2-1 loss to Japan. 

The first round of matches was intense and had Saudi Arabia pulling off a famous victory against Argentina before going on to lose their next two games. Ghana nearly getting a draw which would have been well deserved against Portugal and England scoring six past hapless Iran. 

The final round of the group stage matches were also very interesting as most of the matches decided who went through to the knockout stages. Tunisia defeated France and we were celebrating only to find out that Australia beat Denmark meaning they wouldn’t get out of the group. Who was to go through in group C between Poland and Mexico was at some point during the final group games being decided by fair play as both teams were level on every other thing until Saudi Arabia scored against El Tri to break Mexican hearts. Brazil were one Cameroon goal away from facing Portugal in the Round of 16. Over in Group H, Ghana held out to prevent Uruguay from scoring a third goal thereby allowing South Korea to get through to the knockout stages after beating Portugal.

Belgium had a disastrous tournament and were deservedly knocked out at the group stage in a group that Morocco topped. 

It’s always a tense affair when Switzerland and Serbia meet each other and that was the case again when they faced off in their last Group game with the Swiss coming out on top for the second time running. 

Perhaps most interesting of all was what went down in Group E where both Spain and Germany were going out at some point when they were losing to Japan and Costa Rica respectively. Germany rallied to defeat Costa Rica 4-2 which allowed Spain to progress to the knockout stages despite losing to Japan. 

The round of 16 went mostly as expected with the favourites progressing to the Quarter finals; Portugal and Brazil the biggest winners with 6-1 and 4-1 victories respectively.  Morocco achieved a famous victory against Spain on penalties and went on to defeat Portugal within 90 minutes, ending Ronaldo’s hopes of winning a World Cup trophy and in the process becoming the first African country to get to a World Cup semi-final. However, they ran out of steam and lost to France. Croatia stayed true to self, defeating Japan and Brazil on penalties to get to the semi-finals where they lost 3-0 to Argentina. 

Argentina v The Netherlands was one of the most fascinating matches of the tournament with the tension between the players coming to a boil and Netherlands drawing level from an ingenious freekick routine with the last kick of the game before going on to lose on penalties to the Albicelestes, prompting the Argentines to taunt the Dutch players and coaches. 

England v France was an interesting tactical match-up with the English neutralising Kylian Mbappe but suffering for it elsewhere, eventually losing 2-1 after Harry Kane missed a penalty. 

Croatia played Morocco in the third place match, both teams heavily rotated their squads and Croatia came out on top. 

The final, France v Argentina was an interesting match-up least of all because they have Mbappe and Messi respectively who play for PSG, owned by Qatar Sports Investment, facing off in a World Cup held in Qatar. It was an electrifying end to the tournament. Argentina thought they had settled it within 60 minutes but Mbappe wasn’t having that. He scored a brace within normal time to draw France level in normal time and scored another after Argentina retook the lead in extra time. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t enough as France lost on penalties to give Messi his first World Cup final victory in two tries. Mbappe, at least was consoled with the golden boot.   

A number of players introduced themselves on the World Stage at this tournament from Mohammed Kudus of Ghana to Sofyan Amrabat of Morocco. Gvardiol and Gakpo’s performances in the tournament had them running up their transfer value and Julian Alvarez showed why he went straight from River Plate to Manchester City  but for me the breakout star has to be Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez who has been the fulcrum to Argentina’s machine. 

Some household names performed as expected with Messi and Mbappe dropping beautiful performances in almost every game they played and being level on 5 goals going into the final. Ronaldo, however, had a tournament to forget, scoring just one goal (a penalty) and being dropped for Goncalo Ramos who went on to score a hattrick against Switzerland in the Round of 16. Giroud, who was not France’s first choice striker coming into the tournament broke Thierry Henry’s record, becoming France’s all time men’s highest goalscorer during the tournament following Karim Benzema’s injury just before France’s first game.

Perhaps, most surprising of all has been Griezmann’s performances at this tournament. Griezmann has arguably been France’s best player throughout the tournament, playing in a hybrid 8/10 role depending on the Game State. He’s been very influential in France not feeling the absences of a good number of players through injuries but however, failed to impress in the final.

It’s only befitting that a World Cup that started with controversy ends in it, as the bisht adorned on Lionel Messi to mark his triumph in the competition, sparked conversations around the world.  

Club football resumed not too long after with the Premier League, where Arsenal continued their impressive start to the season and are currently atop the table, with Manchester City seven points adrift of them in second place. Benfica will also be looking forward to continuing their wonderful season with them currently top of the Portuguese league and having finished top of a group that contained PSG and Juventus in the Champions League.  



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